What Are the Odds?

What Are the Odds?

There’s a great scene in The Empire Strikes Back where the crew of the Millennium Falcon tries desperately to escape a fleet of Imperial star destroyers. Knowing the Falcon is sorely out matched by the size and fire-power of the enemy vessels, Captain Han Solo resorts to flying his ship into a huge asteroid field to evade pursuit.

C-3PO screeches in protest, “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1!”

Han snaps, “Never tell me the odds.”

I’ll ask anyway

Some people may not want to know the odds, but to me it only makes sense. For instance, what are the odds of natural processes producing the universe and Earth in such a way that advanced life, particularly human, is possible? According to RTB’s own Hugh Ross, the probability of everything lining up just-right by chance is extraordinarily low. In his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, Hugh lists 66 stringent astronomical and terrestrial parameters that must be met to enable Earth to support life.*

For example, we have our own asteroids to worry about. As counterintuitive as it seems, our little blue orb needs to take hits from asteroids and comets, but not too many or too few. If the rate of Earth’s collisions with asteroids and comets were greater, “too many species would become extinct.” And, if we received fewer impacts, the planetary “crust would be too depleted of materials essential for life.”

Enter Jupiter. Both Jupiter’s mass and its distance from Earth impact the rate of asteroidal and cometary collisions. If Jupiter’s mass were less or its distance any greater Earth would experience far too many collisions. Conversely, if the kingly planet’s mass were greater or its distance less, “Earth’s orbit would become unstable.”

Okay, so for us to exist, the rate of asteroidal and cometary collisions must be just-right and for that to happen, Jupiter’s mass and distance from Earth must be just-right. And that’s not all! The rate of change in asteroidal and cometary collision frequency must also be just-right. As I mentioned earlier, the probability of these parameters falling into place naturally is very, very low. For example, Hugh estimates that the probability the “position and mass of Jupiter relative to Earth” will be conducive to life’s existence is .01.

Taken altogether, the parameters necessary for life’s existence put serious constraints on the possibility of a life-friendly planet like Earth forming naturally. Hugh puts it this way:

“With considerable security, therefore, we can draw the conclusion that even with a hundred billion trillion stars in the observable universe, the probability of finding, without divine intervention, a single planet capable of supporting physical life is much less than one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.”

That’s making the odds of surviving a trip through an asteroid field look pretty good.

In our favor

Prior to working at RTB, I had no idea it mattered where Jupiter is or how big its size or that those galaxies far, far away also must be fine-tuned to support life on this planet. From a strictly natural view, the odds against our existence are overwhelming, but with God in the picture the circumstances of the universe, galaxy, solar system, and planet we call home are unanimously in our favor. So we might want to find out all we can about the odds of how the delicate precision seen throughout creation support life. They demonstrate the fine hand of our loving Lord and give physical evidence for the truths in His Word.

Psalm 8:3–4

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

Psalm 147:4–5

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Psalm 136:7–9

Give thanks to God “who made the great lights— His love endures forever. the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever. the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.”

– Maureen


*The list of parameters necessary for life’s existence has grown since The Creator and the Cosmos was published. See here and here for Hugh’s updated lists.

For more on the fine-tuning of the universe, check out one of Hugh’s latest books, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, or browse the “Design” topic on RTB’s Web site.

And to read about how multiverse theory impacts arguments regarding apparent design, see Jeff Zweerink’s booklet, Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse?